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Economic slump could hit women hardest

Brussels – The global economic slowdown could hit working women harder than men, the European Commission said in a report Tuesday, which showed a large and persistent pay gap between the sexes.

"The economic slowdown is likely to affect women more than men, because women are more often in precarious jobs," said the report, launched as part of a commission campaign to improve pay conditions for women.

The study showed that women earn on average 17.4 percent less than men across the 27-nation EU, hold fewer positions of responsibility and work part-time more often.

It urged nations to invest more in human capital and social infrastructure so that both men and women would be able to help better confront the economic downturn.

"In today’s economic climate, equality between women and men is more important than ever. Only by reaping the potential of all our talents can we face up to the crisis," said Equal Opportunities Commissioner Vladimir Spidla.

The report said that the pay gap was caused by the undervaluing of women’s work, traditions and stereotypes, and problems in balancing work and private lives.

This was despite the fact that women account for nearly 60 percent of all university graduates in the EU.

While the study noted that more women are entering the workforce, the employment rate for women with children under 12 fell by 12.4 percent, yet rose by 7.3 percent for men, reflecting an unequal sharing of care responsibilities.

AFP / Expatica